Even UPA hasn’t done enough for Muslims, says E. Ahamed (Interview)

September 17th, 2008 - 11:58 am ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew Delhi, Sep 17 (IANS) Admitting that Muslims were underrepresented in India’s administration, Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed said the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had not done enough to bridge the “alienation” of the country’s largest minority community and demanded reservation and special recruitment to bring them “at par”.Ahamed, who earlier this week was nominated president of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), said the government needed to take steps to bring Muslims at par with other social groups.

“This is perhaps the most friendly government of the minorities. But it’s not addressing the entire problems of the minorities,” Ahamad, whose IUML is a member of the Congress-led UPA and whose chief support base is in Kerala, told IANS in an interview.

Ahamed, 70, said the Justice Rajinder Sachar Committee’s recommendations and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s 15- point programme to ensure equal socio-economic opportunities to Muslims in India were not enough.

“We welcome the recommendations as also the prime minister’s … 15-point programme to guarantee the representation of minorities… I am of the view it is not sufficient. ,” said the lawyer-turned-politician.

The Sachar committee, appointed by the Manmohan Singh government, compiled an exhaustive report on the social, economic and educational status of the nearly 145 million Muslims in India. India is home to the world’s third largest Muslim population after Indonesia and Pakistan.

The 403-page report, tabled in parliament in 2006, revealed the poor development indices of the Muslims and suggested recommendations to better their condition.

Ahamed explained that the distressed condition of the Indian Muslim was due to “lack of positive and affirmative action” on the part of successive Indian governments. He said suggestions to improve the lot of the Dalits and tribals were not seen as “narrow- mindedness”, but when it came to Muslims, the picture was different.

Ahamed said: “We (IUML) firmly believe that only reservation for (the Muslim) community will give them at least (some) representation. Speeches alone won’t uplift the minorities. These should be put into practice to do away with their social negligence.

“Without giving Muslims a reservation, how will you bring the minority communities at par?” he asked.

“Until and unless the state guarantees special reservation, and if possible special recruitment (for govenrment jobs), minorities won’t have adequate representation (in governance),” Ahamed told IANS.

Asked if it was constitutionally permissible to give job quotas on religious grounds, he said: “Even in the constituent assembly, no less a person than Sardar Vallabhai Patel said that (backward) class would also include minorities. But unfortunately that has not been implemented in our country.

“So this is the time minorities (should) assert (for) their rights. They have been alienated, underrepresented,” he said.

At the same time, it was the duty of the minorities to stress their constitutional privileges, he added. The minorities, Ahamed said, “should strive for their legitimate rights. Mere constitutional guarantee doesn’t make privileges available”.

Condemning terrorism, the minister said targeting any innocent person because he or she belonged to a particular community added to alienation.

“It’s the duty of the administration to ensure that no innocent person is harassed. (This) further alienates the community. It is detrimental to the best interest of our country.

“We vehemently and vigorously oppose any act of extremism and terrorism by any group whatever be the form… We won’t any way support any act of violence which is against tenets of Islam.”

India should realise the importance of peaceful coexistence of religious groups, the veteran parliamentarian said.

“(Gujarat Chief Minister) Narendra Modi can condemn Muslim outfits but whatever happened to the community in his state (in 2002)… put (them) to grave hardships and difficulties… Will he also blame that on SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India)?

“How many people in Gujarat have been butchered and mercilessly killed? How many people have been displaced? Will he say it happened because of SIMI. He is escaping from whatever is happening under his nose. It’s like ‘give a bad name to a dog if you want to kill it’,” he said.

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